Singapore, Singapore Report of what it's like to live there - 08/03/15
Personal Experiences from Singapore, Singapore
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?
26 hours. Singapore to Tokyo to LAX to ATL to NO.
3. How long have you lived here?
1 year, one more to go
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Husband works for U.S. Embassy.
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
High rise apts. embassy staff is close proximity - 10 to 25 minute walk to Embassy. Of course by the time you get there you're soaked with sweat, but you have close-by living quarters.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
It's all here but outrageously expensive. Box of cereal is US$12. Can of Pilsbury cinnamon rolls is US$14. You can buy fresh produce and chicken/fish at the many wet markets, which I love to shop but I don't see many other expats there. Small commissary is on north side on island, 30 minutes away, and it's mainly a super sized convenience store. Alcohol is crazy expensive, but duty free available to diplomats at Embassy store and Navy Exchange/commissary.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
You can get most items thru DPO but stock up on make-up, things like that. There's a Sephora on every corner but your lipstick is twice as much here.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Everything you can imagine, costs nearly twice as much as U.S.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Mosquitoes can carry dengue. Many wear mosquito patches.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Cheap. Live in full time helper is around US$500/month.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Many apts/condos have them.
4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
We use USAA and have no problems.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
Pretty much all.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
English is primary language.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Somewhat. My mom just visited and is wheelchair bound. We skipped the fabulous public transportation system and opted for taxis but I was constantly amazed at how few ramps, handrails, etc are around. You can do it but it's difficult.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Wonderful public transportation system, very safe, reliable, easy to navigate. Taxis plentiful except for when you are running late and it's raining.
2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?
We don't have a car and don't miss it. Great trains and busses and taxis available. It's also a very walkable city if you don't mind sweating.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes. We pay about US$100/month for Internet/cable/home phone.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
There are 2 providers here and they are basically the same
1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?
Yes to quarantine but I'm not sure of details.
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?
Hard to get if you are the spouse on the Dependant Pass. But doable.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Slacks and button downs at Embassy. Casual in public, although locals do like to sport their high fashion when they go out!
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
No. Incredibly safe. You can leave your wallet and phone in a taxi and it will be returned to you intact.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
No, pretty good medical care.
3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Hot, humid, sticky, sweaty, hotter, then rainy hot even more humid season.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
Singapore American School is the only one I know of and it is beyond fabulous. It's 45 minutes away and a huge school (13 first grade classes with 20 students per class) but I was blown away by the teachers, the curriculum, the involvement with each child, etc. not only are the core subjects covered but the arts/music/PE classes are so much more than I've seen even in the private schools in the States! Will be hard pressed to follow up this post with a school that even compares!
2. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Yes, and plenty through SAS.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Huge expat community, high morale. Embassy community is great, welcoming, but spread out in different apts but I found everyone in our condo (mostly expats) very warm, helpful. In our condos there are 2 huge busses that ship 80 expat kids to the Singapore American School if that gives you an idea of number of expats. And we are just one condo.
2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
Eating out, but very expensive (casual burger joint - US$20 burgers, US$8 for a side of fries, US$7 for a coke) and shopping. I've never seen so many malls before. And high end malls at that. For a tiny island, there are probably 7 locations of Tiffany's. A Cartier on every corner and a Prada across the street if you are into that. Many restaurants/bars with a great river view or a view of the amazing skyline. Many hiking in a reservoir type activities, but it's so miserably hot we haven't done much of that.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Yes for all.
4. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
5. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Travel to places such as Bali, Bangkok, Vietnam. Learning so many other cultures, such as Chinese and Indian.
6. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Check out the hawker centers for great, cheap local food, river tours on bum boats through city, Singapore flyer, Sentosa Beach, zoo, River Safari, hiking trails, Botanic Gardens
7. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Many Chinese and Indian items, but not a ton of Singapore items, as their culture is still so young.
8. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Great inexpensive travel to Southeast Asia. No language barrier. Amazingly nice, welcoming respectful people.
9. Can you save money?
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
So many three-day holidays because of the many observances of various religions plus U.S. holidays. I didn't plan our traveling well because many places are doable for a 3/4 day weekend for cheap! Bangkok, US$100 flight, 2 hours. Our first year flew by and I didn't take advantage of this!
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Yes indeed! We have loved out time here.
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
4. But don't forget your:
Cash, credit cards and enough shoes for your kids so you don't have to buy locally!
5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
Crazy Rich Asians -it's fiction but pretty accurate!